Greetings after a LONG hiatus. After my trip from Japan and the Philippines back in September, I had to do a lot of catching up and took some time off from MsCircumstance to get myself back on track. I did promise some updates and a budget guide upon return from my trip with more accurate spending data. Before I flew out, I set a few contingency plans to ease my spending in the Philippines and Japan. I only stayed 2 days in Tokyo and 20 days in the Philippines (during the height of Typhoon season) and allotted only $900 cash $400 of which is reserved to buy my father a new TV. I set up a secret savings plan 8-7 months before my trip. I had some envelopes where every week I would put spare change plus an additional $3-5.00 each week, allocating to expenses I felt would affect my budget. See, while most people save up for Hotel, Food, Shopping Money – they forget the other smaller cost that take a significant bite off your budget. Such as cellphone & internet prepaid card credits, commute/taxi money and maybe some tips or gift money to relatives and businesses. I wanted to go to several Wellness Centers to fix my stiff back so I allocated a money envelope solely for that purpose. I was aware of the horrible traffic situation in Manila, so I had money to purchase a Skyway pass -similar to the US version of the FasTrak system. Overall, all that spare change & lots of self control, allowed me to have an additional $120 spending cash for the little stuff. There are several things that you do need you gear yourself for when traveling to Manila and unfortunately some are big cons. But with smart planning it should keep your stay hassle free.
- Traveling between Mid August to October will have cheaper fares- But your trip will be rainy or stormy. Ticket prices can be as cheap as $790-850 from Southern CA to Manila on these dates. However, most of Southeast Asia will be in a near perpetual monsoon and typhoon season which also happens to be very hot and humid- so dress accordingly especially with shoes.
- If you are a first time visitor or first time in a long time Balikbayan to Manila, plan ahead in keeping connected. Even if the phone model may be outdated, purchase a low-cost open line cellphone and a Philippines Sim card. Some mobile phones are cheaper to buy in the Philippines about $40-50.00 and sim card are under only $1.00 But keep in mind that Philippine mobile carriers will nickel and dime you for calls. Each week, I spent about $8.50 or Php 300.00 just for text and call credits. This excludes costs for 4G USB broadband credits to use a laptop or a 4G Mobile WiFi hotspot for your tablet devices. Suprisingly, if you allocate your internet time well $4.00 or PhP 180 worth of prepaid internet credits will get you a long way. Prepaid Phone Card Credits can be used for both internet and call. However when calling, depending on which service provider you chose, each minute cosst about PhP 7-8.00 and text messaging is about Php 1.00 each – and that can be a real budget drainer.
- Be street smart when travelling in the Philippines. Pickpockets can spot an easy target tourist. So keep your valuables and cash close to you at all times. You will notice that some students wear their backpacks at the front to guard their belongings. If you are riding in a car, as much as possible keep your doors lock and windows up. Don’t wear flashy jewelry. Try not to text or browse Facebook in public areas such as markets or side streets as cellphone theft is prevalent especially in Manila. Ask a trustworthy relative or friend to accompany you on shopping trips. Afterall, two sets of eyes are better than one. Better leave your passport and other important documents & jewelry at home when touring or at the Hotel safe if provided.
- When booking a room in a local resort or a non name brand hotel in groups, some will charge you per person. Only name brand hotels will book you per night. A best way to search for Hotel rooms and resorts is via Agoda, Asia’s version of Tripadvisor & Expedia. Always read the fine Print especially on promo deals in case there are blackout dates.
- Make use of Deal Sites such as Metrodeal and Ensogo to get great discounts when eating out or booking a hotel. Everyone and then they send out great package deals for a Hotel stay even a 3 day trip to beautiful tourist attractions such as Palawan, Boracay or Coron.
- AirBnB. I used this during my stay and was able to live for 3days 2nights in an awseome & secure highrise condo under $60.00/night – Walking distance to the main Business and mall hubs (Makati City) and most importantly Air Condition and HOT water. It’s way cheaper than staying in a hotel. I will go in detail about my AirBnB experience on a later post.
There are actually a lot of Wellness, quality medical services and even travel deals that are way more cheaper to have done in the Philippines
- Facials and Facial Cleaning Between $8-10 in local dermatology centers. Microdermabrasions can be around $25-55.00 depending on which clinic you chose to go.
- Facial Wart removals Can be as low as $10 and package deals $30-45.00 Includes cleanser and healing creams
- Haircuts Average of $ 6.50 lowest – $20-25 Highest ( Php 150-1,100 ) This includes shampoo, styling and even a scalp and shoulder massage.
- Digital Perm $68-80
- Eye Check up $5 Eyeglasses $30-120 frame and lens. $17 for a box of contacts
- Dental teeth cleaning $25-30.00
- Doctors Check up for fever or sore throat between $6-12.00 or Php 250-500 they may include prescription antibiotics if the clinic has them available.
- Flights to other Islands like Boracay, Cebu Palawan $22-45 each way can even go as low as Php600 on sales with Cebu Pacific or ZestAir
- International Flights from Manila to other Asian Cities like Hongkong, Singapore, Taipei, Bangkok $230 or Php 10,100 Round trip. However check-in baggage are charged an extra $12.00 and so are inflight meals. Promo fares can be as low as $162.00 RT but they are non-refundable and no cancellations.
- Manicure and or Pedicure $7-15 and cheaper as a package deal.
- Massages between $ 10- 25.00 depending on duration and massage type
One thing that greatly disappointed me was the cost of merchandise and gas in the Philippines. It pretty much matches the price rates of items here in the US. Some US brands sold in the Philippines have a higher rate due to customs tax. Here are some Examples Beats by Dre headphones US Rate $275 Philippine Rate $350 Forever21 Blouse US Rate $12.00 Philippine Rate $17.00-20.00 A typical salary for an office worker in the Philippines in a month is between Php 18,000- 20,000 thats about $350-400 and after you see the breakdown of daily expenses below, it’s no wonder many Filipino’s choose to work overseas instead to support their families. One thing that is affordable in the Philippines are local brand clothing, vegetables and certain groceries. Here in the US a can of corned beef can cost you about $3.00 in the Philippines its as low as $.50/can Cute baby clothes sets of 2 can be sold under PhP 250.00 or sale price of Php 180.00 thats about $5-6.00- not bad Below is a cost breakdown of expenses.
But before that, here is the Philippine Exchange rate as of November 2014 base guide of how much your dollar is good for.
|Peso||Dollar||Common Use & Good For|
|44||$1.00||Current exchange rate of Peso to Dollar|
|100||$2.50||Meal at McDonald, Jolibee,|
|8||$0.17||Prepaid call per min/ Jeepney Fare short distance|
|20||$0.44||Jeep fare/ Prepaid Load/ Small drink|
Now for the Spending guide in Pesos. I made a blog post back in August that has a cost guide for travel fares, movie prices and meal cost. The one below is an updated version with additional cost of toiletries and other daily need.
|Common Costs PhP||What you can spend|
|40||Bus fare around Edsa/Makati|
|25.00-50.00||Mall or Dept store Parking fee|
|45||Budget meals combo/ Commute fare|
|8||Jeepney fares/ Cost per cell call min in cell|
|15.00-18.00||MRT Fares/ Can of corn beef|
|7||Sachet pk of shampoo or juices|
|100||Reload for mobile, Fastfood meal|
|175||Starbucks or any cafee drink, combo meal, movie tickets|
|250||Mall Meal entrée, Haircut, Manicure, taxi fare|
|200||Hair cut, baby clothes, taxi fare|
|350||Mall meal, cut and style, foot spa, SM Movie IMAX|
|650.00-800.00||Swedish Massage 60 Mins/ Spa|
|350||Meal Entrée for restaurants, ramen places|
|1500-2500||Domestic flight rates to the provinces|
I do hope this guide help fellow Balikbayan travelers and please feel free to add more tips in the comment section